It might seem like a modern trend, but yoga actually began more than 3,000 years
ago in India. The word yoga is Sanskrit (one of the ancient languages of the East).
It means to "yoke," or unite, the mind, body, and spirit.
Yoga includes physical exercise,
but it's also about life balance. Training your mind, body, and breath —
as well as connecting with your spirituality — are the main goals of the yoga
The physical part of the yoga lifestyle is called hatha yoga.
Hatha yoga focuses on asanas, or poses. A person who practices yoga
goes through a series of specific poses while controlling his or her breathing. Some
types of yoga also involve meditation and chanting.
There are many different types of hatha yoga, including:
Ashtanga yoga: Ashtanga yoga is a vigorous, fast-paced form of
yoga that helps to build flexibility, strength, concentration, and stamina. When doing
Ashtanga yoga, a person moves quickly through a set of predetermined poses while remaining
focused on deep breathing.
Bikram yoga: Bikram yoga is also known as "hot yoga." It is practiced
in rooms that may be heated to more than 100°F (37.8°C) and focuses on stamina
Gentle yoga: Gentle yoga focuses on slow stretches, flexibility,
and deep breathing.
Kundalini yoga: Kundalini yoga uses different poses, breathing
techniques, chanting, and meditation to awaken life energy.
Iyengar yoga: This type of yoga focuses on precise alignment
of the poses. Participants use "props" like blankets, straps, mats, blocks, and chairs.
Restorative yoga: This practice allows the body to fully relax
by holding simple postures passively for extended periods of time.
Vinyasa/power yoga: Similar to Ashtanga yoga, these are also
very active forms of yoga that improve strength, flexibility, and stamina. This type
of yoga is popular in the United States.
Yoga has tons of benefits. It can improve flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina.
In addition, many people who practice yoga say that it reduces anxiety and stress,
improves mental clarity, and even helps them sleep better.
Many gyms, community centers, and YMCAs offer yoga classes. Your neighborhood may
also have a specialized yoga studio. Some yoga instructors offer private or semi-private
classes for students who want more personalized training.
Before taking a class, check whether the instructor is registered with the Yoga
Alliance, a certification that requires at least 200 hours of training in yoga techniques
and teaching. You may also want to sit in and observe the class that interests you.
You could also try using a yoga DVD. Websites, DVDs, and books can't compare to
learning yoga poses from a teacher, but they can help you find out more. They can
be especially helpful if you have already taken yoga classes and want to practice
at home. And also can try one of the many yoga apps available for smartphones and
Dress comfortably for your first yoga session in clothing that allows you to move
your body fully. Stretchy shorts or pants and a T-shirt or tank top are best. Yoga
is practiced barefoot, so you don't have to worry about special shoes.
If you're doing your yoga workout on a carpeted floor, you probably don't need
any equipment, although many people like to use a yoga mat or "sticky" mat. This special
type of mat provides cushioning and grip while you do your poses. Yoga mats are sold in
sporting goods stores, major retailers, and, possibly, at your yoga class location.
What can you expect at a yoga class or when you watch a yoga video? To begin the
class, the instructor may lead you through a series of poses like Sun Salutations to
warm up your arms, legs, and spine. After that, you'll concentrate on specific poses
that work different areas of your body. Most yoga sessions end with some type of relaxation
Before you begin any type of exercise program, it's a good idea to talk
to your doctor, especially if you have a health problem. Be sure to let your instructor
know about any orthopedic problems or special needs you may have before the class
begins. A good instructor will be able to provide modified poses for students who
are just beginning or who have special needs.
Staying on Track
Your schedule's already packed — so how are you supposed to fit in time for
yoga? Here are a few tips:
Break it down. If you can't do a half hour of yoga in one sitting,
try doing it in chunks. How about 15 minutes after you get up and 15 minutes before
bed? Or try three 10-minute workouts to break up a long study session.
Do what works for you. Some people have more success working
out in the morning before the day's activities sidetrack them; others find that an
after-school workout is the perfect way to unwind. Experiment with working out at
different times of the day and find the time that fits your schedule and energy level
Find a workout buddy. Doing your yoga routines with a friend
is a great way to stay motivated. You'll be less likely to miss your workout if you
have an appointment with a friend. You and your buddy can compare tips on healthy
eating and exercise habits, evaluate each other's poses for form, and keep each other
Consistency is key. If you want to reap the benefits that yoga
provides, you'll have to do it consistently. A once-a-month yoga workout may relieve
some stress, but for benefits like increased flexibility and stamina, you should aim
to practice yoga three or four times a week.
Set some goals. The same routine every week may become monotonous,
so set some goals to help you stay focused. Perhaps you'd like to incorporate power
yoga into your routine so you get a better cardiovascular workout. Maybe you've always
gone to yoga class and your goal is to start practicing on your own at home. Whatever
you choose as your goal, make sure you reward yourself when you accomplish it!
The great thing about yoga is it can be as vigorous or as gentle as you want it
to be. That makes it a good choice for anybody.